Teaching for the 21st Century
Kevin Jarrett wants teachers to leverage the Internet's capabilities for learning and collaboration.
Kevin Jarrett is taking a much-needed break from technology and his blog, right after he finishes an interview with a reporter about … technology and his blog. At his day job as a K-4 computer teacher and Technology Facilitator at Northfield Community School in New Jersey, Kevin works with teachers to ensure that students and teachers get the most out of their learning experience, whether working in his computer lab or in their regular classrooms. Outside of school, he continues working—scouring the Internet and his personal learning networks for state-of-the-art learning tools and Web 2.0 educational resources. “I love what I do,” he says. “It’s so much more than ‘just a job’ for me.” He adds, “If I’m awake, I’m connected, thinking about lessons I want to try or projects we’ve got going on.”
Jarrett’s passion for technology has greatly benefited Northfield teachers and students. An advocate for efficient, effective and inexpensive—especially FREE—technology in the classroom, he led the charge at his district to embrace Flip video camcorders, Microsoft PhotoStory and Movie Maker, Glogster Edu and more. Teachers use tools like VoiceThread, Kerpoof, Wikis and Skype to add global connections, interactivity, depth and motion to class projects. As engaging as these services and tools can be, Jarrett cautions against adopting “the latest and greatest” without careful planning. “You can get infatuated with gadgets pretty quickly,” he says. “You will create a better learning experience when you focus on student and teacher learning goals first.”
The Start of Something Big
Call him a virtual visionary. When Jarrett began blogging in 2003, “I knew… that the Internet had enormous potential for use in the classroom,” he writes, “and my blog, NCS-Tech, was one way to share that information.” His original goal was to provide educators in his district with up-to-date information on helpful websites, free tools and resources, and more. Since then, the readership has grown well beyond his district. The online educational community has similarly expanded. “Social networking is bringing like-minded educators together,” Jarrett says. “It’s an enormously powerful source of late-breaking information and an opportunity for collaboration and collegiality.”
For teachers wanting to tap into this online community, Jarrett suggests starting slowly. The same is true when thinking about using the Internet and educational technology. “Pick a project, something you’ve done before, then talk to every person you can possibly find who has done something similar,” he says—with an emphasis on staying specific as to your needs. “If you go into the blogosphere and Twitter asking people, ‘How can I use Web 2.0 tools with my students?’ you are not going to be successful.”
Jarrett envisions a future when “technology integration” is no longer a focal point in schools. “I would prefer ‘technology’ is not even mentioned—so that using technology is as natural as reaching for a pencil or an encyclopedia,” he says. Whatever new developments and educational improvements the future brings, you can be sure that Jarrett will be blogging about it.
In September 2010 Kevin Jarrett will begin his eighth year as the K-4 computer teacher and Technology Facilitator at Northfield Community School. The Google Certified Teacher found his dream job after nearly 20 years in the corporate world, most recently as a Project Manager in the Information Technology consulting field. Follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/kjarrett.